Solo Exhibitions include upcoming Chorus, Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery, Berlin (2021); Gathering, Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery, London (2020); Stages of Collapse, September Gray, Atlanta (2017); A State of Mind, The Armory Show, New York (2016); A State of Mind, Omenka Gallery, Lagos (2015); To Figure an Encounter, Open The Gate, London (2011).
Group Exhibitions include New Hall Art Collection, University of Cambridge, UK (upcoming Feb 2022); Self-Addressed, curated by Kehinde Wiley at Jeffrey Deitch, Los Angeles, USA (upcoming 2021); World Trade Organisation, Headquarter, Geneva, Switzerland (2021); The Invincible Hands, Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art, Lagos, Nigeria (2021); Karim Kal and Nengi Omuku, La Galerie, Contemporary art Center, Noisy-le-Sec (2021); FACING THE SUN, Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery at Schloss Görne, Germany (2021); Dancing in Dark Times, Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London, UK (2021); All the Days and Nights, Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery, London (2020); Untitled Art San Francisco, with Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery, San Francisco (2020); 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, London (2019), Hospital Rooms, Griffin Gallery, London (2018); At work, Arthouse, Lagos (2018); ARTX,Lagos (2017); Commotion, 1:54, London (2017); Mapping Histories, Constructing Realities, ART15, London (2015); The Next 50 Years, Omenka Gallery, Lagos (2014) and Jerwood Drawing Prize Exhibition, Jerwood Gallery, London (2012).
HIGHLIGHTS AND COLLECTIONS
Nengi Omuku’s artistic practice has won scholarships and awards, including the British Council CHOGM art award presented by HM Queen Elizabeth II. Commissions include a commission from the Arts Council England to paint a mural in an intensive care psychiatric ward in Maudsley hospital, London. Omuku’s work can be found in international private and public collections such as HSBC Art Collection, Beth Rudin DeWoody Collection, Collection Laurent Dumas, Loewe Art Collection, Monsoon Art Collection, Easton Capital collection and Dawn Art Collection
ChorusPrivate View: Friday 29th October, 6:30 - 9pm BerlinThe body of a reclining woman lies stretched out like an undulating landscape in front of a crowd of bodies partially submerged in sea-like substance. This mysterious, textural painting entitled Fiyin at Rest is part of a new series of haunting artworks by Nengi Omuku who paints onto panels of a traditional Nigerian fabric known as Sanyan, lending each piece a distinct physicality. For her latest solo exhibition Chorus, at Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery Berlin, the artist continues her explorations of collective identity and notions of belonging with a new focus on spectatorship, ritual and spirituality.
Omuku’s practice has long fluctuated between figuration and abstraction, and this latest body of work evokes a greater sense of fluidity and dynamism that serves to create an almost dream-like atmosphere. The painting Still Life, for example, depicts a faceless woman holding a pot containing a heart-shaped plant and resting her arms on a green, sloping surface with a terrazzo inspired pattern. Behind her, pink swirling clouds float in a pale blue sky. The soft colour palette evokes a sense of serenity and space, reflecting the idea of being lost in thought as the figure gazes at the plant. “Even though it’s not me, I think of this work as a self-portrait,” says Omuku. “It’s an artist thinking about painting a still life, which isn't very common among black artists as we’re normally more concerned with the politics of the body.” The still life genre is also associated with a certain privilege in the sense that the artist has the time and space to be still. Significantly, Omuku’s figure remains detached from the actual act of painting and the world around her is in flux; she appears to be longing for, but not quite able to access a state of calm and contemplation. Nevertheless, it’s interesting that this work depicts a singular body rather than a crowd, perhaps gesturing towards the idea of art providing access to space and individual agency.
Elsewhere, groups of bodies recur as a haunting, spectral presence, often blending into the background or merging into one another. “These people keep resurfacing in my work and they reminded me of the chorus in Greek theatre, who would traditionally observe and sometimes, comment on the action,” explains Omuku. Her figures, however, are silent spectators with their faces deliberately obscured to avoid singularity and express our shared physicality: the body of the collective. In one of the most arresting works, entitled Wave, a large crowd of people directly face the viewer, and while we cannot see their eyes, we feel the presence of their gaze and with it, the eerie sensation of being watched. This particular composition was inspired by the artist’s experience of attending a wedding and witnessing the strange performative ceremony of the photo-call in which different groups of people are asked to stand behind the couple to have their portraits taken. As her first formal gathering after a period of lockdown, Omuku recalls the odd feeling of disconnection from the scene. The large scale of the work and the strong sense of physicality that’s evoked by both the figures themselves and the materiality of the Sanyan fabric recreates a similarly unsettling experience for the viewer.